Buried Down Under? Australia faces trash crisis as India bans plastic waste imports

The recycling crisis in Australia is set to worsen after the country lost the fourth-largest destination for its rubbish. India has announced a complete ban of plastic waste imports this month.

Recycling is “greatly under threat,” the Australian Council of Recycling has warned, pointing to the closure of Asian markets. Last December India imported 13 percent of Australia’s total waste exports.

“We are back to where we started with the China crisis, but worse because we have fewer alternative markets,” the council’s chief executive Peter Shmigel said, as cited by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Nations across the globe have been suffering from waste build-up, after China stopped importing recyclable garbage last year. The country’s ban on imports of 24 types of solid waste materials has led to a severe recycling industry overload.

Statistics showed Australia’s waste exports to China declined by 41 percent in the last financial year. Meanwhile, overall waste exports by Australia increased by five percent since then.


Despite other countries (including India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia) taking more of Australia’s recyclable rubbish there was hazardous stockpiling of recyclable material, while rubbish collectors scrambled to find alternative overseas markets.

Malaysia and Thailand have already announced a ban on plastic waste imports by 2021.

“If Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand enacted waste import bans similar to China’s, Australia would need to find substitute domestic or export markets for approximately 1.29 million tons (or $530 million) of waste a year, based on 2017-18 export amounts,” an analysis of Australia’s waste exports, commissioned by the Department of the Environment and Energy, found.

According to Australia’s Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price, the country’s officials had already met twice to draft “targets, actions and milestones” for a “national action plan” based on priorities such as reducing plastic pollution and increasing demand for recycled materials through procurement.The department was also consulting with the industry, she told the media.

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